Limping toward the finish line

We are, literally and figuratively, limping toward the finish line of this school year. God, it’s been a rough one. I thought last year was bad. Apparently this year saw last year and said, “Here, hold my beer.” This Herd is DONE. Toast. Finis. Exhausted. Drained. And oh yeah, I am limping.

You see, two days after the Bigs finish school, Big Man and I will run the Rock n Roll Half in San Diego again. My training was a bit derailed last week. I headed out for a four-mile easy run Thursday. I immediately felt pain in the left side of my left knee, and my left Achilles tightened up too. I tried to work through it, slowed down, and then stopped to stretch, but it just hurt. I made it all of .88 miles before I caved. At just over four weeks til race day, I wasn’t going to risk injury. And it really freaking hurt.

I hate when I have to stop a run because of pain. My whole day goes downhill. I was able to get out and finish four miles on Friday morning, but it wasn’t easy. There wasn’t any pain, but there was discomfort. I had to mentally fight to the end. Same happened on this morning’s 5-mile easy run. I was super slow, my muscles didn’t loosen up until mile 3. I will admit, I was tense, afraid the pain from last Thursday would return. I’m so not where I want to be mentally and emotionally with running right now. I’m afraid for this race, afraid I’ve put too much pressure on myself. I’m a little scared.

As for school…we’re usually beat up by this point. That’s nothing new. What is new is the level of being drained we are all at. It’s bad. The Bigs have four more weeks of school – 18 more school days. Big Man just finished the second of two AP exams this morning. The Princess has hers this Friday. In a few weeks, they face final exams. Blessedly they don’t seem to have the level of end-of-school-year projects they’ve had in recent years, thank the  Good Lord. It’s been a brutal year for both of them – academically for Big Man, socially and emotionally for P. We’re all ready to be done, to put this year behind us, chalk it up to life lessons and growing pains, and kiss it goodbye. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, 16/17 school year.

Little Man has 6.5 weeks of school. Yep, you read that right. He isn’t out until June 20th. I can’t remember when my kids were in school that late – past my birthday this year. Insanity. That’s 18 days AFTER the older two finish. Utterly ridiculous. I’ve been whining about it since the calendar was released last year. Then, get this, because they are aligning the middle and elementary school calendar with the  high school calendar, he will have just eight weeks of summer, as opposed to ten or eleven. Again, absolutely ridiculous.

He’s struggling right now, again. His SAI sent me an email the other day he’s back to leaving the classroom quite a bit again, spending a significant amount of time in the great room rather than in his class, doing what he’s supposed to be doing. She said he seems more stressed but he can’t express why. We have seen an increase in his anxiety level at home. I have no idea what the source is for his stress. He does tend to go a little sideways the closer we get to the end of the school year, but who knows.

I have no energy. I’m tired. I’m over the morning routine and homework battles. I’m tired of thinking about carpools, 6am cheer, and test scores. The kids are tired too.

You know, some years we come sliding across that finish line with a bang. We’re beat up, but we fight to the end. We might make it by the skin of our teeth, phoning it in on whatever we can. But this year, we’re limping. It’ll be a close thing. I know we’ll get there, but it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Winging It

You could probably safely call me a control freak, with a side of OCD. It’s just who I am, how I’ve always been. I’m a neat freak. I like things in their places. I crave order. I love routine. Change is difficult – it throws me off my game. I’m a planner, down to the smallest details. I hate when plans are derailed. Know what challenges all of that? Having kids, and living life.

We had Little Man’s birthday party Saturday evening. Now,  he is kid #3. I’ve spent sixteen years going crazy over birthday parties – handmade invitations, sleepovers with 13 kids, tea parties, American Girl trips, Pinterested out decorations/cupcakes/games. When he said he wanted a sleepover, I shot it down. First, I’m tapped on the sleepover birthday parties, seriously., and it was the night before I was running a 15K race. No go, my friend. His second idea was a trampoline park. Oh yeah! 1) I love any party that’s not at my house; 2) I wouldn’t’ have to provide any entertainment; 3) Food and drinks were included; 4) Did I mention it wasn’t at my house?

And so let’s just say, I was purely focused on the detail of getting the kids there, bringing them home, and the cake we were allowed to bring in. Have I mentioned things have been a little crazy around our house lately, and that I had a nine-mile race to run the next morning? See where this might be headed?

First off, Little Man, while having good friends, does not have a ton of friends, so his party was small. Spouse was at a golf tournament, so I was the solo parent. The trampoline park set aside three tables for us in their party area – THREE! We all fit, with room to spare, at one table. I put the cake and gifts on another table just so we wouldn’t look so pathetic. We also didn’t have any decorations. He isn’t a little kid, so there wasn’t a theme involved, and honestly, decorations never even crossed my mind. While the kids jumped, I sat there, by myself, at a huge, empty table, no decorations, not a ton of gifts, no other adults. #loser

I also didn’t bring any extra snacks or drinks. I knew pizza and soda were coming, and we were only there for two hours. So imagine how amazing I felt when the kids came back to the party area looking for hydration? I gave them a few dollars to get waters out of the machine as our sodas weren’t coming for another half hour.

Then it hit me….I had cake, but I hadn’t brought enough candles. neither did I have anything with which to light the candles I did have. I didn’t have any cake plates, nor forks, nor napkins. Even more, I didn’t have a cake cutter. The kids figured out something was going on, and I was honest with them. They just started laughing. So did I. Stress broken. We joked about using one of the paper pizza plates to cut the cake. When we did sing, “Happy Birthday”, a few of the kids held their fingers over the cake as imaginary candles.

They all helped clean up when we were ready to go. I checked out while they headed out to load up the car. When I arrived at my car, the Princess asked if the cake cutter the park had loaned us was ours to take. They’d efficiently, in their cleaning and gathering, packed the cake cutter in the cake box. Hysterics ensued. P took the cake cutter back into the trampoline park, from which I’m fairly sure we’ve been blackballed. And oh man, did we all laugh on the way home. I apologized for being a loser, overwhelmed mom, and for messing it all up. One of the boys said, “This is the strangest, but most fun, birthday party I’ve ever been to,” and one of the girls said, “I wish my mom were more like you. This is fun.” Hah!

Not one of them cared. Not one of them felt the party was ruined by my phoning it in Everyone had a good time. Everyone had enough to eat. Everyone jumped and had a good time.  That’s all that matters right?

I’m learning you don’t always have to plan to the last detail, especially when it comes to kids.  Sometimes things turn out better when you just wing it, rather than stressing about every little thing. And often, when you admit you’ve messed up, and are able to laugh at yourself, everyone around you will have your back. I can’t control everything. I certainly can’t control everyone. I’ve learned that while my need for order, control, organization, and routine is okay, it isn’t the end of the world when things don’t go the way I planned. Sometimes,  you get a better result when you epicly “fail.”

Commit

Since our kids were little, we’ve spoken consistently on commitment – if you say you’re going to do something, you do it; you finish what you start, and you don’t half-ass it. If you can’t or won’t abide those rules, you don’t even start. You can’t tell your kids one thing and do something else, so we do our very best to live this out. This means that even when we’re tired, or overwhelmed, we have to suck it up.

I’m training for two races right now, with the goal of finishing the half marathon in June at or just under two hours. That means work, because I have to take over 8 minutes off my best time. I have a training plan I’m doing my best to stick with. Travel and illness have derailed it a bit, but I’m back in the saddle this week, getting miles in. I’m even doing speed work, which I completely detest. More shocking, I’ve run in the rain. I’ve always been a fair-weather runner. I hate being out in the rain. But I have to put the miles in, so I shove a hat on my head, put on sunglasses to keep the rain out of my eyes, and get out there. I’ve also never run back-to-back days, much less three days in a row, but I’m doing it. I actually feel stronger, and have fewer issues with my hip and IT band than when  I was just running three days a week. It helps to have a friend holding me accountable, but I’ve committed to a goal, and it’s on me to finish it. That means there are nights I don’t go out because I have a long run early the next morning. That means getting up on a Saturday morning when I’d much rather sleep in. That means squeezing in runs even when I have a billion other things to get done. That means taking care of my body so it can carry me through 13.1 miles/

Big Man had some struggles with fully committing earlier this school year. He was out there at practice, but man, talk about phoning it in. Granted, he was struggling with growing pains, but he just would not push through. It came back to haunt him, and he learned a valuable lesson, one that didn’t come from us.

The Princess has been about commitment for years. When she chose dance over competitive soccer, she was mid-way through a soccer season. She knew she had to carry it out, finish the season with her team. Her soccer family was relying on her. They needed her to remain fully engaged until the end. It was rough….she was exhausted, but she fought until the very end of the very last game of her very last tournament. She decided to cheer in high school, so for nearly a year, she’s been at school almost every weekday morning at 6am to practice. That doesn’t begin to cover all the extra hours at camp, cheering at games, making posters and putting together gifts for athletes, working hard on pep rally routines. In the midst of all this, she’s done her best to maintain  her dance schedule.

Here’s the deal – your kids are going to learn to be committed to things if you aren’t showing them how. You can’t tell them to commit if you aren’t committed to whatever you’re doing. Some days it’s much harder than others, but you do it, even when it’s difficult, and you’re tired, and you’d much rather sit on the couch watching baseball movies all day.

That certain point

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to reach that certain point in the Holiday season when I’m tapped out – exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically – from all the demands, all the to-do’s, all the parties, shopping, planning, prep. I live on the verge of tears alternating with angry outbursts for a couple of days, and then it all comes back together again.

I reached that certain point this morning. The kids still have one more day of school after today. The older two are smack in the middle of first semester finals. They’re tired, overwhelmed, cranky, not so nice all the time. Little Man is feeling the stress of an upcoming change in routine. Big Man still needs to go to the mall to do his shopping, but I can’t find it in me to actually take him. My shopping is done, but the wrapping is only about halfway finished. Yet all I want to do is sit on the couch with my coffee, watching random, mindless tv.

Anyone else get in this funk every year? What do you do to pull yourself back up?

 

Pushing Back

Since Big Man was a toddler and the Princess a newborn, I have taken the kids for studio portraits every Christmas. It’s just what we do. I have a thing about getting pictures done of them – they grow up so quickly and change so much year-to-year. They’ve never argued over it, although we did have those years we all basically ended up in tears, and I walked out of the studio stressed out, covered in sweat, with the much-wanted perfect photo somehow in hand.

We had our session scheduled for yesterday.  I asked them to get changed half an hour before we were supposed to leave. Both olders rolled their eyes at me. THEY ROLLED THEIR EYES!!!! I was taken aback. I mean, really? You’re pushing back on Christmas pictures?

Plan A for their outfits had to be dumped when I discovered the red in the shirts I ordered for the boys was different, shirt-t-shirt. They totally clashed. So we went to Plan B, which definitely had a decidedly Southern-California feel. Anyone else wear shorts and t-shirts for Christmas pictures?

We arrived at the studio and there was a good amount of attitude from all three. I told them the more they cooperated, the more quickly we would be done and out of there. We fought through to get the minimum number of shots, with some grumbling and definitely more eyeball rolling.

I guess this is where we are now. They’re going to push back on this tradition every year from here on out. Really, they only have to endure it a couple more years, then Big Man will be off at college and we will have to come up with something besides studio portraits. They’re going to find I’m not going to let this tradition go until I absolutely have to. Someday, they’ll thank me for it, right?

These are just the last few years…….Someday I’ll scan all the rest of them.

Re-Introducing the Herd

The Herd has had an influx of followers the last few months (Go Herd!), so I thought it might be appropriate to reintroduce ourselves, and explain why three is a herd. This is a copy-and-paste from a long-ago post, but it covers the details. Happy Friday, all!

So….what is a herd exactly, and why do three make a herd?

When our third child was born, with the older two 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 respectively, my husband informed me we now had a herd. Having two kids is just having kids. Apparently, having three or more gives you herd status. Yes, I do frequently feel like I am a herder getting the kids out the door, getting them back in the door, getting them to bed, getting them to all their activities. Some would say my husband and I are outnumbered. I always smile and respond, “We still have more hands than we have kids,” meaning we still have one hand left between the two of us to grab someone or something. No, we will not be adding to the herd. This shop is closed!

When Little Man was 8 months old, we bought our big ole Expedition. I needed a vehicle that could hold three full-sized carseats in one row. And minivans were completely out of the question. Deal-breaker. I loved my Expedition. I loved my personalized plates even more, which mention the Herd. Everyone knows it’s us when we arrive somewhere. I do get some strange looks and/or comments – I guess there’s a video game that has something to do with a herd (I’m clueless what game, so if you know, please let me in on it).  Since we no longer use those big carseats, we’ve moved on to a smaller SUV, but I’ve retained the plates, and probably will as long as my Herd is living at home.

In addition to our three children, we also have three dogs – one small Yorkie, one medium Cocker Spaniel, and one large Labradoodle (more lab than poodle) – two cats, and fish. I live in a zoo. https://threesaherd.com/2013/05/22/we-have-a-zoo/  My house is not my own. My herd owns it. I’m just the accepted caretaker.

Three is a herd because my husband said so. I love that we have a moniker. It’s us. It describes us fully.  Welcome to our herd.

The Gate, and other accidental traditions

My in-laws have a vineyard. Cool, right? It is totally cool. One of my favorite days of the year is Harvest. We get a heads-up about a month ahead of time, with a general idea of the harvest date. And then a firm date about two weeks ahead of time. Word goes out to friends whom have been asking for a month already when harvest is.

Years back, Harvest was moved from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, just to accommodate our sports/dance schedule. And trust me when I say it’s not easy to get up at 5am on a Sunday morning, even when you know the day is going to be amazing. But it is awesome…..picking grapes, tasting wines from years previous, the fog laying over the valley, the camaraderie of those who have braved the early morning for the experience, the smell of the coffee in your mug while walking through the vineyard, the sound of the camera clicking to capture the grapes, the vines, the people, the frantic activity in the kitchen as brunch is prepared and laid out…..

I don’t remember how many harvests had already happened in 2006. My babies were babies yet, with Little Man just 2 1/2 years old. The grapes had been picked and hauled off by the wine-makers. The brunch had been eaten. People were saying goodbye. At some point, I was with my precious herd in the courtyard, and the three of them stood at the gate, their backs to me, as they said goodbye to someone. I snapped a photo, loving the colors, the comparison of their sizes to each other, the gate in front of  them with its fall decorations. It remains one of my favorite photos of them, even though you can’t see their faces.

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The Princess had just started her second year of Saturday-morning dance. Big Man was just in Kindergarten. Little Man was still wearing diapers. A moment captured in time.

I didn’t think about that photo at Harvest the following year, but the year after that, we ended up taking another photo of the three of them at the gate.

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And then it became a thing. Distant friends and family would ask when harvest was – not to come, but to know when to watch for the newest gate photo.

Now, we take a picture of my three at the gate every single Harvest. I anticipate it every single year. As they’ve grown, I’ve grown more and more sentimental about this accidental tradition. Yesterday, my father-in-law gave an edict: The gate will be at all of their weddings, and a photo will be taken, and all the previous gate photos will be on display. Now, I know you all know I’m an emotional sap. I’ve become verklempt every time I think about it. My babies are growing up so very quickly.  These photos every Harvest are so evident of that. The first, Big Man’s head was barely halfway up the gate. Now, two of them are taller than the gate, and Little Man is above the edge at the bottom corner. Soon, Big Man will head off to college, and then there will be two. The year after that, the Princess will head off to college, and my gate picture will be of one.

This is what  we’re meant to do right? Raise them, and then watch them fly away. These photos, this accidental tradition, will show me not only how they’ve grown over the years, but will be a visual reminder of family, tradition, heritage, love.